Any Day that Ends in YA – Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

IMG_5725I’m trying something new. I have been home in Pennsylvania visiting family for the last few weeks and my mom has an internet package conceived by a real miser and a connection which rivals the stability of a house of cards and playing telephone with two cans and a piece of string. Soon I will be going home and I will miss my family but I will have a little more routine. This I do pledge my oath… until the time when I no longer pledge my oath.

So I have been reading tons of books. It has been raining a lot and I commandeer the couch in those times when the sky can no longer keep Mother Nature’s tears at bay. More than a handful were worthy of recommendations and if you want to go to my Goodreads and look up my August 2013 reviews you can find me on the website by searching me by my name.

The book that most impressed me for it’s depth and fearlessness was a YA book by author Jennifer Brown. In light of the horrific stories of the last few years of young girls and boys in Junior and High School falling prey to youthful indiscretion, impulsivity, peer pressure, poor choices, predators, immaturity, desperation… the timeliness of a book of this nature could very easily be the moment of hesitation that a young person has from doing something similar to what happens in Thousand Words. Pre-teen and teen years are a time for the magic of happiness & heartache, melodrama, joyful laughter & painful angst, hope & anxiety and the joy and knowledge that you are both in it together with your friends and you stand alone. But youth is for making a cake of things. Doing all those things you are told not to. Go to bed a decent time? No way. Stay away from that guy because he seems sketchy? I think I heard you roll your eyes through the

Jennifer Browninternet. Don’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with? Well if your friends were doing it then it must be right. Be careful what you send to people when you are texting your friends? This one causes more broken hearts, broken bones, broken homes, broken laws and shattered lives.

Ashleigh Maynard’s barely into the beginning of her Junior year when a foolish drunken dare becomes a girl’s worst nightmare. Years ago mothers and fathers told their children not to write anything down that they didn’t want anyone to see or be seen by others. It’s so much worse now. I’m an adult and I still wonder–how do I love and trust them while staying smart enough to never giving them the ammunition for them to sink my battleship? That sounds neurotic and paranoid.

Ashleigh Maynard not only gave her ex-boyfriend, Kaleb Coats, the ammunition to sink her battleship; she gave him the artillery, the coords to her location, the intel on her strat, allies and contigency plans. She also handed him the shovel to dig her grave and the soil to bury her with.

This book has almost no warm or fuzzy feelings. Even the small thawing parts don’t give you a sense of lightness. Jennifer Brown brilliantly pulls apart the intricacies of a situation where someone who is a minor and another who is a legal adult are in a relationship and sexting and sharing racy photos occurs in faith and that faith is betrayed. The result is heart churning and ugly. You are always aware of the fact that there is a mark on Ashleigh and her family, even Kaleb, that they all just have to bear that stain afterward. Just reading the words on the page leaves you feeling weighed down. Ashleigh’s everyday is one nightmare after another. Throughout the entire book there is a thread telling you to question every person. Question every word. Question everything promise. Question every denial. Question every friend and every foe. Sadly Ashleigh learns too late that everyone with an opinion is an enemy.

The is a survivor story in the deepest meaning of the definition. I can’t say that there are any truly likeable characters in this book. Some may think that that is a sign of a bad book but don’t believe that. This book takes advantage of the richness of broken and people that are annoying and ugly on the inside. Wounded people do really terrible things and it makes them compelling and that train wreck is difficult to look away from.

Ashleigh is a typical self-centered teenage-girl. She loses her crap on her friends so many times it isn’t funny and the way she sinks her relationship with Kaleb reaks of the sort of psycho that you only find in B-rated horror movies and Bipolar patients off their meds. Von is almost her twin, morally vacant and self involved. Kenzie is the girl version of Prestone, battery acid and Pepsi churned together and injected into a badger. Mrs. Mosely is dismissive and plays favorites. Ashleigh’s dad is also dismissive as well as passive-aggressive and slut-shaming. Mack is the person I dislike the least but not because he is neat or awesome. It’s just that he almost never talks or does so little to make any sort of waves at all that there is next to nothing for me to critique or rail against.

This book is a phenomenal YA book.  I applaud the cajones it took to take on and face a topic so controversial and important and deliver it with such vivacity and brutality. There are certain books out there that should be worked into school curriculum. I know that Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was being read in many High Schools as a relevant YA topic book for students. This would be another great book to get pushed around to English and Literature teachers. I think I’ll be visiting teacher’s blogs, schoolboard websites, and teen reading groups who might be looking for suggestions for the coming year!

Thanks for reading today’s recommendation.


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